February 2018 Review
by Gun Control Network on 23-03-2018
GCN is committed to preventing gun violence and we work to pursue that objective through changes to the legal system, public services and attitudes to guns. We collect and analyse data to provide all stakeholders with the evidence needed to initiate change.
GCN collects data on gun incidents and related sentences, inquests, and investigations in England, Scotland, and Wales as reported in the British media. We know our information is incomplete, though we believe nearly all the most serious crimes are included.
Figure 1: February 2018 incident reports by type
We are aware of at least one report in February 2018 concerning a gun death:
- A 41-year-old man was shot and fatally wounded as he got out of his car on a roundabout in Barnet, North London. The police believe the killing was a targeted hit.
We are aware of at least one report in February 2018 of an inquest relating to a gun death:
- An inquest into the death of a 74-year-old man in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire has resulted in a verdict of suicide. The man was found lying in a car park outside a vet’s with a double-barrelled shotgun by his side.
N.B. The inquest failed to reveal whether or not the shotgun was legally held by the deceased.
Armed Domestic Violence
We are aware of at least five reports in February 2018 of armed domestic violence (victim known to perpetrator):
- A man has been sentenced to seventeen years in prison after pleading guilty to false imprisonment, possessing an imitation firearm, possessing a sawn-off decommissioned shotgun with intent to cause fear of violence and other offences following a hostage situation at a bowling alley in Nuneaton,Warwickshire.
- Armed police attended following reports of a woman in her 20s being held against her will by a man with a gun in Ipswich, Suffolk. A 25-year-old man was arrested and a firearm was recovered at the scene.
- A 46-year-old kickboxing instructor was given a conditional discharge after being found guilty of possessing an imitation firearm. He was cleared of three counts of assault and ordered to pay £500 costs after he sprayed a class of ten-year-old children with pellets from a rifle to make them run faster during a lesson at a leisure centre in Kingsbridge, Devon.
- A 25-year-old man has been found guilty of possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence after a long-running dispute between workers from two garages in Banbury, Oxfordshire erupted into violence that included shots being fired from an airgun.
- Firearms officers were deployed to a property in Bournemouth, Dorset following reports of a woman being held hostage by an armed man. The woman was found uninjured outside the property, but a six-hour stand-off ensued before a man was arrested and a number of weapons recovered.
Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least five reports in February 2018 relating to licensed gun owners/dealers/legal guns and ammunition:
- A police officer unintentionally discharged a firearm as the weapon was being unloaded at a police station in Edinburgh. A Police Investigations and Review Commissioner concluded that there was no injury or damage, nor risk identified to any person, and therefore no investigation is to take place.
- A 58-year-old man from Birmingham, West Midlands has been jailed for fourteen years after admitting to conspiracy to transfer prohibited firearms and ammunition. The man acted as a middleman for a firearms dealer and used a legitimate firearms certificate to collect weapons and ammunition that were sold on to criminal gangs.
- A 12-bore shotgun belonging to a licensed shotgun owner was allegedly stolen from a house in Heanor, Derbyshire.
- A 26-year-old man has been jailed for eight years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life, with a consecutive three-year sentence imposed for burglary involving the theft of four rifles and three shotguns stored in a gun cabinet in a house in Rugby, Warwickshire.
- Six shotguns, an air rifle, a ball-bearing pistol, a replica Beretta handgun, a replica Thompson sub-machine gun and ammunition, all belonging to a licensed gun owner, have allegedly been stolen from his home in Southampton, Hampshire.
Stolen Guns and Ammunition
We are aware of at least four reports in February 2018 of stolen guns and ammunition, involving a total of nineteen guns, all believed to have been legally held:
- See above Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, shotgun stolen from licensed gun owner in Heanor, Derbyshire.
- See above Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, ten guns and ammunition stolen from licensed gun owner in Southampton, Hampshire.
- See above Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition, seven guns stolen from a gun cabinet in a home in Rugby, Warwickshire
- An air rifle stolen from a home in Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, Yorkshire.
Animal Death and Injury
We are aware of at least one report in February 2018 of animal cruelty involving a gun:
- A cat had to be put down in Rhyl, Denbighshire after a pellet from an airgun lodged so deep into its spine that it was unable to use its back legs. On examination, it was discovered that the cat had previously been shot behind the front legs.
Imitation, Airsoft, and BB guns do not currently require a licence in England or Wales. These guns are responsible for many gun injuries to both humans and animals. Since January 2017, airgun owners in Scotland have been required to have a licence.
N.B. Gun Control Network, The RSPCA, The Cats Protection League and other organisations and individuals calling for airgun registration, including families bereaved as a result of ‘child on child’ airgun fatalities, welcome the Government’s Review of the regulation of air weapons in England and Wales and await the outcome.
Sentences and Convictions
We are aware of at least 28 reports in February 2018 of sentences and convictions for gun crime:
- A 19-year-old woman from Rochdale, Greater Manchester has been jailed for two years after admitting to possession of a firearm and ammunition. Her stepfather contacted police after discovering a pistol and bullets in a drawer in her room. She admitted to looking after the gun for an unnamed boyfriend.
- An 18-year-old man has been jailed for five years after admitting possession of a prohibited firearm. Police called at his address in response to reports of a domestic disturbance and discovered a fully-automatic assault rifle, which he claimed to have found in a park in Liverpool, Merseyside.
- A 19-year-old man and an 18-year-old man have been jailed for six years and three-and-a-half years after being found guilty of possession of a firearm and possession of an offensive weapon in a public place. Acting on intelligence, police swooped on the men’s taxi in Camberwell, South London and discovered the weapons.
- A woman and three men have been jailed for a total of 29-and-a-half years for firearms offences including possessing a firearm, possessing ammunition and conspiracy to possess a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life. The arrests came after police found a handgun and live ammunition in a house in Dagenham, East London.
- Four men and a 16-year-old boy have been jailed for a total of more than 40 years for firearms offences including possessing firearms and ammunition and conspiracy to supply guns. When police raided a property in Birmingham, West Midlands, a bag containing a pellet pistol converted to fire live rounds, a sawn-off shotgun and ammunition was thrown out of a window.
- A 55-year-old former soldier was handed a six-month prison sentence, suspended for twelve months, after he admitted possessing an unlicensed shotgun and ammunition. Police officers, called to his home in Glanrafon, Gwynned following reports of a domestic incident, discovered the shotgun and ammunition in an unlocked cupboard. He was also ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid community work and pay £250 towards prosecution costs.
- A man has been jailed for four years after being found in possession of a stun gun. He and an accomplice stole items from a community hall and the guildhall in Saltash, Cornwall. The court heard that the man suffers from ADHD and is known to the mental health team.
- Four men have been jailed for a number of offences including conspiracy to murder two people, drugs offences and possession of ammunition and firearms, including an automatic submachine gun left by one of the men at a drop-off point in Hastings, Sussex. Two men received life sentences; the other two received sentences of seven years and three years respectively.
- Three men have been sentenced to a total of thirteen-and-a-half years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to transfer or sell ammunition. After tracking the men to a pub car park in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, police seized more than 50 rounds of ammunition and £140,000 of cocaine.
Incidents by Weapon Type
Many incidents involve the use of airguns*, Airsoft, imitation and BB guns, which do not require a licence and may not contain ammunition but are used by perpetrators to capitalise on the fear of victims who believe they are about to be shot. Traumatised victims are often unable to identify the weapons used. It is extremely difficult to distinguish between imitations and live-firing guns unless the weapons are fired and/or recovered, and for this reason guns involved in incidents frequently remain unidentified.
Shotguns and rifles can be legally held by those granted a licence. Ultimately, legally-obtained guns in every country tend to find their way into the wrong hands, whether through theft, corrupt licensed gun dealers, (see above four reports in February 2018 involving Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition) and/or the failure of the licensing procedure to identify legal gun owners who pose a risk to themselves and/or others.
Please see the endnote for further explanation of gun types and current legal status.
Figure 2: February 2018 reports by weapon type
See Gun incidents in the UK page for details of incidents involving these gun types.
Guns that do not require a licence: Airguns* (so-called ‘low-powered’); Airsoft; ball-bearing; imitation; paintball; antique; deactivated; bolt guns** and starting pistols/blank firers.
These guns are cheap, accessible and available to buy on impulse. Moreover, lack of secure storage requirements enables theft. (See above Stolen Guns and Ammunition). Many are capable of being converted into more powerful weapons. Guns deactivated to early specifications are capable of reactivation and recent more rigorous specifications are not retrospective.
There is no legal definition of ‘antique’ and, although possession of antique guns is prohibited to those having served or received a criminal sentence, it is unclear how this is administered during sales and transfers.
Airsoft guns are exempt from the terms of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 and are ‘self-regulated’ by the Airsoft industry. The Home Office fails to collect data on the proliferation of Airsoft skirmishing sites.
N.B. The Office of National Statistics has published data relating to 2015 which demonstrate that over 80% of offences involving imitation firearms involved BB guns or soft air weapons.
- *From January 2017 airgun owners in Scotland have required a licence.
- ** A ‘slaughter licence’ is required for a bolt gun.
Guns that require a licence: airguns in Scotland; shotguns; rifles; police firearms/ Tasers.
The inadequate licensing procedure is subsidised by taxpayers to the tune of £20 million a year. Any number of shotguns can be held on one certificate, which lasts for five years. The licensing procedure consistently fails to protect the public from licensed gun-owning perpetrators. Women are particularly at risk of domestic violence involving licensed gun owners. However, the Home Office does not publish data regarding the number of Licensed Gun Owners/Dealers/Legal Guns and Ammunition involved in crime, and the status of guns used in suicides is not recorded at inquests.
Guns that are prohibited: handguns (revolvers, pistols etc.); Olympic starting pistols; Tasers; submachine guns; and ‘other’ weapons (pepper spray/CS Gas; home-made guns and explosive devices).
Certain handguns are exempt from prohibition. Handgun, Taser, and pepper spray use is authorised for police, but there are concerns regarding fatalities and Taser training.
Imitation/Airsoft guns are available without background checks. Crimes reported in the media as involving handguns are likely to involve imitations, airsoft, air pistols or other guns that look like handguns, resulting in misleadingly-inflated reports of handgun crime.
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